Dreaming Awake

“Creative writers make believe. They train themselves sharply to observe the world around them, to notice the unnoticed. They reach back into their past lives for rich characters, vivid settings, and meaningful events. But at some point, the search for raw material veers toward another source–it turns inward to what isn’t, wasn’t, and could never be, yet somehow seems right, real, and true.” From: THE CREATIVE PROCESS by Carol Burke and Molly Best Tinsley

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Writing in Time…

Having lost myself in time–for months at a time–I am sharing words of wisdom from Kenneth Atchity and his book, A WRITER’S TIME. “Like everything else in life, the process of revising your view of time begins with a decision. It’s a matter of willing to change your life by starting today to manage your time and understand its relationship to work and personal satisfaction. Here are some starting points, gleaned from my own experience and that of some other time-management experts: *Stop doing things no one needs to do. *Stop doing things someone else will do if you stop …

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Advice on Writing a Bestseller–Beware Info-Dump

When I work with writers, often the hardest news I have to deliver about their manuscript is “Cut, cut, cut, cut the info-dump.” That’s the term some people in the biz use to describe the excessive use of backstory/exposition. You know it when you see it–paragraphs or pages of information delivered passively to the reader. Information served up on a paper plate. Information that dulls the reader out of the dynamic narrative now. When I say it’s difficult to tell writers they have to cut backstory that’s because they’ve usually spent hours, days, weeks getting those sections just right. They …

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez on Imagery, Memory and First Lines

The next time you read a novel, stop after the opening line. What promise is the writer making to the reader? A beautifully crafted novel will begin to work its magic from the first words on the page. Below is a brief excerpt of an interview of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in conversation with Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza in the marvelous book, THE FRAGRANCE OF GUAVA: Which visual image did you use for One Hundred Years of Solitude? An old man taking a child to see some ice which was on show as a circus curiosity. Was it your grandfather, Colonel Marquez? …

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Fiction According to John Irving: “You might say I back into a novel.”

Fiction according to John Irving: “You might say I back into a novel. All the important discoveries–at the end of a book–these are the things I have to know before I know where to begin.” In his lucid book THE FICTION EDITOR, THE NOVEL, AND THE NOVELIST, editor and author Thomas McCormack quotes Irving to say: “I want to know how a book feels after the main events are over. The authority of the storyteller’s voice–of mine, anyway–comes from knowing how it all comes out before you begin…” This quote comes in the midst of Thomas McCormack’s discussion of what …

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Story Form–It’s a jungle out there!

I had a call yesterday from a writer who wasn’t sure if the story she wants to write will best be told as fiction or memoir. We talked about fear of exposure and how fictionalizing a life story does not necessarily do anything to address that issue. We talked about the kinds of books she loves to read. At the end of our brief conversation, she asked if I had an exercise that would guide her along a discovery process to find her story’s form. I have a simple step, I said, to take you in that direction. Sit down …

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NO SLUGS, NO SLACKERS…

Today’s quote comes from Thomas McCormack’s excellent book: THE FICTION EDITOR, THE NOVEL, AND THE NOVELIST. “Character is most keenly revealed when it’s confronted with crisis, hard choices, urgent decisions. Thus, insofar as he’s interested in revealing character, the author’s job is to construct setting and circuitry that will call for decisions, for actions.” When you sit down to write today, ask yourself what your characters want and how far they will go to get what they want? Ask what they do about getting what they want–and also what effect their actions have on others? Finally, ask if the reader …

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THE WORD ON WORD COUNT

If you’re about to query agents about your debut novel and the word count tops 150k, land here first: The Swivet. Agent Colleen Lindsay lays out the basics by category. Bottomline–less is more. The average word count for a novel? Between 80k and 100k, with YA running between 50k and 80k. 

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THE FORCE FIELD OF RELATIONSHIP

Writers talk a lot about viewpoint characters. The story is told from her viewpoint. Or his viewpoint. Or both their viewpoints.  Sometimes we become so focused on maintaining a strict viewpoint, we forget that narrative is about relationships.   Relationships. Interactions. Exchanges. Collisions. Between people. And between a person and her world.  When you write your next scene imagine an energy field or aura surrounding each of your characters. As you write, put your attention in the space where these energy fields collide.  Now imagine an energy field (or a thousand different fields) coming from the physical world–the birds singing …

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A Tip for the Day–AHA!

Today’s writing tip is a simple way to avoid “math anxiety” when it comes to reviewing scenes: Remember that your primary character has an objective in each scene. That goes for other characters who are active in the scene. Objectives change–and they may begin as reactive (as in your character reacting to something that happens) but ultimately that reaction translates into action, subtle or profound.  These are also called scene goals–each character has her own goal in each scene, and those goals are most often in conflict because we want conflict in story. When it comes to opening scenes, another …

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